Tough luck advertisers, Apple and Google are focusing on privacy
Apple and Google have some bad news for web advertisers. Both companies are gearing up to roll out the latest updates for their respective web browsers, Safari and Chrome, with greater focus on preventing a user’s browsing habits from being tracked.
Apple will be rolling out the iOS 11 update for iPhones and iPads later on Tuesday (19-September), and macOS High Sierra operating system for MacBooks and iMacs rolls out on 25 September. While it is always exciting to discover new features in the latest software, you may easily miss out on one rather important change—Intelligent Tracking Prevention. The Safari web browser in iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra will include a new setting for preventing “cross-site tracking”. This severely limits websites and advertising platforms online from tracking your web browsing history and habits.
Advertisers online track web browsing habits using something known as cookies. This is how they are able to feed advertisements customized for you, on other websites that you browse. Surely you would have noticed how you would see an advertisement for a gadget you were searching for on a shopping website a few days ago, pop up on your Facebook timeline?
The new Safari browser, irrespective of whether you are using it on the iPhone, iPad or a Mac computing device, will use machine learning to classify the cookies and scripts that any website loads on the browser. Any cookies and scripts that can potentially be used for tracking and subsequently used for serving advertisements to the same user on other websites and apps will be blocked after 24 hours from when they were first accessed during browsing. After 30 days, these cookies will be completely purged from the user’s device.
The 24-hour exemption is in place to allow users to use their login credentials on other websites, for instance.
As expected, advertisers are up in arms to protest this latest move by Apple which puts users’ data privacy requirements above anything else. Six advertising trade groups in the US—the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), American Advertising Federation (AAF), Association of National Advertisers (ANA), Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI)—released a joint statement late last week. “Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love. Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful,” the release said.
Apple had a rather simple response, which suggested it wasn’t going to back down anytime soon. In an official statement released by Apple, the company spokesperson said, “Ad tracking technology has become so pervasive that it is possible for ad tracking companies to re-create the majority of a person’s web browsing history. This information is collected without permission and is used for ad re-targeting, which is how ads follow people around the internet. Apple believes that people have a right to privacy.”
As it turns out, Apple isn’t the only company that wants to make your web browsing experience less frustrating. An upcoming version of the Google Chrome web browser will block websites from automatically playing videos that may be embedded on a webpage. This will indeed take away the annoying auto-play videos that tend to suddenly start booming from your PCs speakers as soon as some webpage loads—they are the most unexpected, they are intrusive and are also used by websites to earn revenue from advertising.